Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes

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Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: An honest and revealing account of psychotherapy, from the point of view of both the therapist and the client. Very interesting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1845299729

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This is a remarkable book. It gives an insight into the process of psychotherapy, both from the theoretical point of view and, more significantly, from actual conversations and sessions in the consulting room. Jane Haynes takes us through her own development as a client (although she doesn't like that word) in her own self-discovery and therapy sessions, and then into some of her consulting sessions after she qualifies as a therapist. I've always thought of this kind of thing as very American, but this book is entirely British.

I've never been in - or wished for - any kind of therapy. But I do find psychology interesting. I've read several books about modern versions of Jungian psychology, and the two conversational family therapy books by John Cleese and Robin Skynner. I had my own stereotyped ideas of what might go on in a psychotherapy consulting room, so I found it very interesting to read an individual perspective. It helped me, too, to get some idea of the kinds of problems that beset people who have therapy not just for a few months but for years, sometimes with two or three sessions per week.

The first part of the book is written, unusually, in the second person. The author writes as if addressing her own therapist, recalling some of their discussions, and the emotions she went through as she matured and began to understand herself better. She mentions the difficulties inherent in such a relationship, where any kind of physical contact is generally taboo, and where the therapist shares very little of his or her own background and personal opinions. The focus must inevitably be on the client, with the therapist enabling self-discovery, gently urging and encouraging the client to delve into the past, to remove any masks, and to have a safe place to vent. And yet it's not that simple: for trust to develop, there has to be some kind of relationship, and it doesn't always work for the therapist to be an all-wise, all-seeing but emotionless blank slate.

In the second part of the book, Jane Haynes writes about some of her own clients in the late 1990s, changing names other than when requested not to. She also describes some of what happens in her own family, including a tragedy that affected her daughter and grandchildren as well as herself. She delves, time and again, into the difficulties besetting therapists who have to decide how much of their lives to share with their clients, and whether some form of physical contact - a hug, perhaps, or a pat on the back - might actually be of help to some of them. She explores, too, the idea of erotic transference from both perspectives, both with examples and with some fairly complex theories, and delves on occasion into poetry, and a bit of Shakespeare.

It wasn't a book I could read at just a few sittings. Although I found it interesting, it was quite heavy-going in places, and I found that fifteen or twenty pages was about as much as I could handle at a time. I'm glad I have at least a slight background knowledge about Jungian archetypes, and some of the terms used in psychotherapy - mirroring, transference, and so on - or I might have struggled to understand. The language is mostly abstract, and some sentences seemed long and a little convoluted. I had to re-read several paragraphs to understand them, particularly if I was a bit tired.

Still, overall I thought it a fascinating book, one I shall probably read again in a few years. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to know a little more about how psychotherapy can help confused or hurting people. It's not an easy read, but well worth persevering.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending the book.

For more views on the effectiveness or otherwise of therapy we can recommend Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton and Cleaning Up: How I Gave Up Drinking And Lived by Tania Glyde.

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Buy Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes at Amazon.com.


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